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We Energies request 4.9 percent increase on electric rates

Wisconsinites are cutting back on electricity and the state's largest utility says it needs more money to cover the lost revenue.

We Energies had already asked the state's Public Service Commission for the OK to raise residential electric rates by 4.9 percent next year.

Now, the utility wants to make it a 7 percent hike which would bring in $50 million plus the $76 million it sought earlier.

The average residential customer would pay $64 next year and $44 in 2011 if the PSC approves the request. Final action is expected late in the year.

Charlie Higley of the Citizens Utility Board says the rate hike will only make it tougher for cash-strapped families to make ends meet.

But Brian Manthey of We Energies says the utility is sensitive to the impact on its customers. He said the firm could have asked for another $92 million in rate increases and it probably would have been justified.

He says We Energies is trying to scale back during the recession just like everybody else.